ARLINGTON, Texas: Brett Phillips squatted on the field crying, Randy Arozarena sprawled in the dirt pounding his hands on home plate.
Tears of joy, smacks of celebration — and a crucial, crazy win for the scrappy Tampa Bay Rays.
In one of the wildest World Series finishes ever, the light-hitting Phillips delivered a tying single off Kenley Jansen with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning that turned into the game-ending hit when the Los Angeles Dodgers dropped the ball twice, allowing Arozarena to scramble home and lifting the Rays to an 8-7 victory Saturday night (early Sunday in Manila) that suddenly evened things at two games each.
“Golly, what a special moment,” Phillips said.
Center fielder Chris Taylor misplayed Phillips’ ball in right-center for an error and chased it down while Kevin Kiermaier scored the tying run. Arozarena kept charging around third base but stumbled and fell well before reaching home.
He was able to get up and score when catcher Will Smith looked up too early and missed the relay throw, letting it squirt toward the backstop while Arozarena dived on top of the plate.
“Once I saw Randy slip, I was like, ‘Aw, shoot, at least we tied it up,’ and then he missed the ball,” Phillips said. “I don’t know what happened but then he scored. The next thing I know, I’m airplaneing around the outfield and I get dogpiled and here I am.”
Jansen came on in the ninth for the Dodgers and struck out Yoshi Tsutsugo before a broken-bat single by Kiermaier, the longest-tenured Rays player. Arozarena, the rookie who earlier hit his postseason record ninth homer earlier, drew a two-out, full-count walk to set up the improbable final play.
“You got to stay positive,” Jansen said. “I didn’t give up one hard hit. What can I do? Throw the pitches where I wanted to. Credit to the hitters.”
A 26-year-old from Seminole, Florida, Phillips was drafted by Houston and played for Milwaukee and Kansas City before Tampa Bay acquired him in August for a minor leaguer. Touted for his outfield defense, he hasn’t hit much in the majors, ending the regular season with a career .202 average in 153 games.
He had been 0 for 2 in the postseason and hadn’t batted since Game 3 of the AL Division Series on October 7.
Phillips was left off the AL Championship Series roster but shined as a cheerleader, writing up phony scouting reports on a clipboard touting Arozarena before dancing against him in battles after the team locked up the AL pennant.
“What a great team effort on this win. It took almost 28 guys,” Phillips said. “That’s what special about this team. Just all come together, our one goal is to win. We don’t rely on one guy. It takes everyone, and man, baseball is fun.”
Corey Seager and Justin Turner both had four hits with a solo homer for the Dodgers, who nearly went into Game 5 on Sunday night with a 3-1 series lead. They’ll send three-time NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw to the mound on regular rest after winning Game 1 on Tuesday night.
Hunter Renfroe, Brandon Lowe and Kiermaier also homered for the Rays, who had gotten all of their runs on long balls until that last play. All their previous runs came during a frantic stretch when the teams combined to score in eight consecutive half-innings, a first in World Series history.
A solo homer by Kiermaier, the Rays’ lonest-tenured player since 2013, tied the game at 6 in the seventh, right after the first two lead changes in this entire World Series.
Lowe went the opposite way for the third time in this Series, his three-run homer to left in the bottom of the sixth putting the Rays up 5-4. A half-inning later, the second baseman was laying facedown in short right field after his diving attempt to catch pinch-hitter Joc Pederson’s liner, which skimmed off the top of his glove for a two-run single that put LA back ahead.
That was the first go-ahead pinch-hit in the World Series for the Dodgers since Kirk Gibson’s game-ending homer in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.